By Matt Cronin
The following looks at the 2012 year-end top 10 players on both tours and discusses what would make positive or negative seasons for them in 2013.
Good year: Wins two Grand Slams while managing to beat Serena Williams the majority of the times they play. In 2012, she was clearly the world’s best fast court player until Williams revival at Wimbledon. Azarenka had the most impressive year of any player of her generation in 2012, but if the world No. 1 wants to lead past the veteran elite for good she is going to have to continue to improve and consistently find ways to beat the likes of legends Serena and Maria Sharapova. The 23 year old is almost there with the Russian, but isn’t even close with Serena, whom she lost to five times in 2012.
Bad Year: No Slam titles, she can’t find her way past Serena and other standout veterans like Sharapova and Li Na. She also loses critical matches to members of her generation like Caroline Wozniacki and Petra Kvitova.
Good year: Another Slam title (anywhere) and she consistently goes deep at the other tournaments while not suffering any blow out defeats like she did on occasion in 2012 to Serena and Azarenka. Her first win over Serena since 2004 would do wonders for her confidence, as would her first full year of solid, big serving since 2007.
Bad Year: Fails to win another major, gets roughed up by Serena and Azarenka and begins to lose ground to the younger set of Kvitova, Radwanska and Wozniacki.
Goodyear: She wins another two majors to up her total to 17, just one shy of Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova and there by puts herself in the discussion of the top two players ever (in my mind, Steffi Graf is currently the best ever,followed by Navratilova and Evert). She wins Roland Garros, the only Slam she has won a single time (in 2002) and the tournament that troubles her the most.
Bad Year: Fails to win a Slam, becomes injured for the umpteenth time and misses a chunk of the season. She suffers another early, inexplicable loss on red clay at Roland Garros, which essentially ends the 31-year-old chances of ever raising the French trophy again.
Good year: Wins her first Grand Slam title and turns around her rivalries with Williams, Sharapova and Azarenka. Manages to sneak past those three and grab for the No. 1 ranking for a brief time.
Bad Year: Consistently comes up short against the top 3 and fails to reach another Slam final. Shell shocked when her younger sister, Urszula, passes her in the rankings.
Good year: Wins her second Slam title, and manages to play and compete well for the whole season because she is no longer getting sick every other month. Shows both Azarenka and Radwanska just who the best player of their generation is and finally reaches No. 1.
Bad Year: Fails to reach a Slam final, cannot figure out what is causing her immune system to constantly break down and tires too quickly to be able to achieve her massive potential.
The best of the Rest
Good year: No. 5 Angelique Kerber improves by five percent and plays gutsier ball at the majors, which brings the German to her first final and maybe her first Slam title…Sarah Errani adds a little more oomph to her strokes and whizzes past the field to win Roland Garros… Li Na flourished under new coach Carlos Rodriguez and wins her second (and final Slam)… Sam Stosur finally has a terrific Australian summer and makes a deep run into the second week at Melbourne…Caroline Wozniacki continues to improve her serve and forehand,re-enters the top five and steals the US Open title.
Bad Year: Kerber repeats her 2012 Slam performances and can’t come up with the goods against the other elites at crunch time…Errani comes back to earth and is a non-factor on every surface except for clay… The enigmatic Li begins to ignore Rodriguez, eventually fires him and loses interest on the sport… Stosur has another atrocious Australian summer when she replicates 2012 winning only one match down under … Wozniacki continues to be stubborn, ignores the counsel of outside coaches and retains the bad habit of pushing the balls at the majors.
Good year: Retains the No. 1 ranking almost start to finish, wins Roland Garros for the first time and one of the other three majors. The Serbian controls his rivalry against Roger Federer, gets on top of Rafael Nadal on clay and puts Andy Murray back in his place.
Bad Year: Watches his old friend Murray seize control of their rivalry, a resurgent Nadal out muscles him on all surfaces and Federer takes some key wins over him on fast courts. The Serbian fails to win a major for the first time since 2010.
Good year: Wins his 18th major, continues to school the younger players, owns the veterans outside of the Big 4 and at the age of 31, still matches up well against Djokovic, Nadal and Murray, getting at least one key win against each of them. Leads Switzerland to the Davis Cup title for the first time.
Bad Year: Fails to win a another major, visibly slows down, gets beaten up by the other members of the Big 4 and can no longer have his way with the up and comers.
Good year: Wins another major (or two). He starts the year off by finally winning the Aussie Open on his beloved hard courts, plays consistently well until early July and then becomes the first British man since Fed Perry in 1936 to win Wimbledon. The queen immediately calls for a national holiday in his honor.
Bad Year: Fails to a win a Slam, watches Djokovic take a series of tight matchesagainst him and still can’t find a way past his nemesis, Nadal. He loses toFederer in another tight and tearful Wimbledon final.
Good year: Fully recovers health wise and is an immediate factor in Australia. He doesn’t win the title there, but the Spaniard picks up steam in the spring and secures his eighth Roland Garros crown and his third Wimbledon.
Bad Year: Can’t seem to shake the pain in his aching knees, is slow to the ball and can’t get a good push- off on his shots. Does next to nothing on hard courts and for only the second time in the past nine years, fails to win Roland Garros.
Good year: Actually reaches a Grand Slam final and manages to push one of the members of the Big 4 to the brink of defeat. Reaches another two Slam semis and finally finds a way to beat Federer on any surface, and Nadal at least once on clay.
Bad Year: Fails to reach a Slam semi, win another Masters Series and is routinely beaten by the Big 4. As a result, he loses his confidence and falls out of the top 10.
The Best of the Rest:
Good year: Tomas Berdych wins a Masters Series, reaches another Slam final and this time around either wins it or bangs his way into a dramatic fifth set… Juan Martin Del Potro wins his first Masters Series shield and turns the Big 4 into a Big 5 by winning his second major and first since 2009 by snaring his second US Open title… Jo-Wilfried Tsonga soars under his new coach, Roger Rasheed, improving his backhand and return. The Frenchman grabs his first Slam crown at Wimbledon…Janko Tipsarevic reaches his first Masters Series final, his first Grand Slam semifinal, changes his mind and comes out in favor of equal prize money…Richard Gasquet sheds his ‘talented yet enigmatic’ tag, wins his first Masters Series in his fourth final, and reaches the second week of every major.
Bad Year: Berdych doesn't add much needed variety to his game, slips mentally and loses a series of close contests to the elite players at the big tournaments… A less than confident Del Potro fails to budge out of the No. 7 spot and is little more than quarterfinal fixture at the big tournaments … Tsonga’s coaching move yields little, he gets hurt again and grows increasingly despondent that he can’t break through at the majors, which negatively affects the rest of his season …Tipsarevic over schedules again and consequently fails to peak at the large tournaments. He also publicly rips WTA players for not letting ATP players bump them on practice courts at the combined tournaments … Gasquet becomes impossible to predict again, losing in the first round one week,reaching the semis the next, but rarely shows up when the stakes are the highest.